Flattery is to be regarded with suspicion. It is insincere. A common definition of flattery is – excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one’s own interests. It can also mean to please or gratify the vanity of. Other words that describe flattery are sweet talk or smooth talk.
The bible speaks of flattery too in Proverbs 29:5 where is says, “A man who flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet.” What this means is that flattery will put us off our guard and we can easily be trapped in the net. A flatterer is not trying to please you, but to deceive you for his profit. Be careful of flatterers and be careful that you do not flatter your friends. At times we might do it without realising it but that would only reveal either our insecurity around that person or our selfish motivation. Watch yourself and be careful not to fall into the horrible habit if flattering your friends.
Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Once again, this is evidence that flattery is not a good thing and should be avoided; it can run your friends and your friendships. Our friends will value us more in the long run if we are honest and say what needs to be said. At first it might be difficult for you to say the hard things and for them to receive it, but it is the right thing to do. Proverbs 28:23 says, “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favour than he who flatters with his tongue.”
Job, a man who was used by God as a great example in the bible, had a lot to say about flattery. In Job 17:5 he says, “He who speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children will fail.” Now that is quite something, isn’t it? That flattery will even affect our children! It might mean that their eye sight will fail but if we dig deeper we find the Hebrew word for eyes, ‛ayin, used by Job is also used when talking about Adam and Eve in the garden. In Genesis 3:7 Adam and Eve’s eyes, ‛ayin, are opened making them able to see what they could not see before – that they were naked. In the same way, perhaps flattery causes our children not to see the things that they should be seeing. If they grow up witnessing flattery as a normal way of life, their eyes will fail.
There is a great deal more in the bible about the dangers of flattery. Now let’s take a look at what we should be doing instead of flattering. Firstly, as we saw in Proverbs 28:23, “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favour…”. This might seem harsh but there are times when we all need a good friend who has the courage to rebuke us. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Yes, giving or receiving a rebuke can be painful and can leave wounds but if someone bothers to rebuke you, at least you know you have a friend you can trust, one who is willing to do the difficult things rather that just flatter you. Are you this kind or friend, the one who will say the difficult things rather than flatter? There is a great deal about the value of such a friend in the bible. Psalm 141:5 says, “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. and let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.” We should value such friends and be such friends.
Another quality that we should have as friends is the ability to offer encouragement rather than flattery. Encouragement is sincere, and for the benefit of the person who is receiving the encouragement, unlike flattery that is selfish in motivation. True encouragement can save a friend in a difficult season or be a breath of fresh air in hard times. One of the best ways to be sure you are encouraging and not flattering is to use bible verses. There are some really beautiful and powerful verses in the bible that will offer encouragement when needed. The great thing about the bible is that it is living and active just like a probiotic yogurt – you can’t see any life when you look at it but when you take it into your body it does wonders.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Let us be the sort of friend that uses our word to edify and build people up rather than flatter them. Encouragement isn’t just nice words to make your friends feel good; they are words of life that will impart something into their innermost being. Choose your words very carefully so that you can be certain that you are not flattering. Build each other up and when necessary take time to rebuke or correct your friend in love.
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